One of the earliest examples of reverse engineering (RE) in mechanical design was the Jerry Can: during WWII Allied troops noticed how superior German fuel carriers were to their own. They got hold of one, deconstructed it, and from its principles created the familiar Jerry Can. One of the first recorded examples of reverse mechanical engineering also turned out to be one of the most useful!
RE is the industrial application of something we all do naturally. Children deconstruct toys to see how they work; editors deconstruct sentences and rewrite them. Anything which can be broken down and rebuilt can be reverse engineered. From a commercial prospective, the earliest applications were in military hardware � not just fuel cans, but weaponry and aircraft too. Reverse engineering is still used in the military field today. However the field has now extended to include system software and electronic components, as well as mechanical designs.
RE involves the methodical deconstruction of a device, component, computer program etc. to analyze its construction and function, where these are unknown to the engineer. In mechanical engineering, it is used to construct a new device or system which does the same job as the original, but without being a direct copy of it. Covertly employed to copy enemy technology during the Cold War and other conflicts, RE is openly used in the design of domestic products, for example to create versions of competitors� designs, or to recreate in-house designs where originally patents and blueprints have been lost. RE is also used to modify existing hardware and software systems so they can integrate with emerging new technology. Re-launches of classic products, where blueprints are unavailable and/or there is a need to modify certain components or materials to comply with modern environmental compliance or safety legislation, is another example.
Modern 3D CAD design tools have helped revolutionize mechanical design. 3D scanners, also called co-ordinate-measuring machines or CMMs, can digitize individual components, realizing the information on-screen where it can be subjected to 3D CAM (computer-aided modeling). The latest 3D laser scanners are able to perform detail dimensional analysis to a high degree of definition and accuracy.
In areas like the manufacturing, aerospace and automotive industries, mechanical designs often have a long lifespan, during which components may become obsolete or outmoded. Reverse engineering therefore has a use in creating after-market parts, and is especially useful if these were originally outsourced to a different supplier or OEM. It�s important that the replacement complies with modern environmental compliance legislation that might have come into play since the original design was manufactured. Considerations include:
� Environmental, ergonomic, aesthetic and fatigue analysis of original materials used
� Method of construction (for example, were lead solders used? Is there a better type of fixing that could be employed?)
� Original finishes and platings � many of the originals are illegal under modern environmental compliance laws
� Electrical factors and power/fuel consumption � an important consideration is to reduce the carbon footprint wherever possible.
We at Enventure Technologies offer a range of mechanical engineering services, including environmental compliance and reverse engineering solutions.
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